This is from Francis Asbury’s journal, 31 August 1796:
I had a meeting with the leader in close conference, and found it necessary to explain some parts of our discipline to them, particularly that of the right of preachers expelling members, when tried before the society or a “select number,” and found guilty of a breach of the law of God, and our rules; and that if an appeal were made, it should be brought before the quarterly meeting conference, composed of travelling and local preachers, leaders, and stewards, and finally be determined by a majority of votes. I found it also needful to observe there was such a thing as heresy in the church; and I know not what it is if it be not to deny the Lord that bought them; — and the eternity of the punishment of the damned, as is virtually done by the Universalists. Schism is not dividing hypocrites from hypocrites, formal professors from people of their own cast: it is not dividing nominal Episcopalians from each other; nominal Methodists from nominal Methodists; or nominal Quakers from nominal Quakers, &c. But schism is the dividing real Christians from each other, and breaking the unity of the Spirit. I met the trustees; and after going hither and thither, and being much spent with labour through the day; I gave them a discourse at the new house, (in the evening) on Acts xx. 32. My attempt was feeble but faithful.
We can only imagine why the offending elder was removed. Perhaps he was preaching the lack of Christology (and atonement?) and the universality of salvation. Indeed, these things seem to go together — which is why we find that when something of a universal reconciliation is often proposed throughout Church history, we find it always rooted 1.) on the atonement derived from a high Christology and 2.) bound in hope.
But, this is why some of us get ticked at Christians in the UMC for breaking the covenant while we can more easily, at this point, ignore the neo-pagans who “divest” from their vows. Schism is not the separation from heretics, sinners, and pagans, but the destruction of the bond between Christian and Christian.
Further, Asbury’s necessity of separation is…wait for it…based on doctrinal reasons AND the breaking of the rules (i.e., Book of Discipline). Believe or not, the breaking of vows is an abomination in Scripture. God does not take too kindly to it.
Note, Asbury did not suggest separation by those who did not break the rules (i.e., leaving, not paying apportionment, attempting to break the trust clause) but said that the offending party should be dealt with.
Let our feeble attempts be as faithful.